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Dell Latitude X1 review: Dell Latitude X1

Once chock-full of chunky, stodgy business systems, Dell's Latitude lineup now boasts one of the slimmest and sleekest notebooks around. The new Latitude X1 packs a wide screen and the latest components into a small, thin case that's based on Samsung's breakthrough Q30 (sold only overseas). Does the Latitude X1 perform as beautifully as it looks?

Brian Nadel

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4 min read

The Latitude X1 weighs just 2.5 pounds (3.1 pounds with its tiny AC adapter)--on the lighter end of the ultraportable spectrum. It's just a couple of ounces heavier than the IBM ThinkPad X40 and about 10 ounces lighter than the Fujitsu LifeBook P7010, and its screen is the largest of the three. The notebook measures 11.2 inches wide and 7.7 inches deep; its front edge is an inch thick, though the battery widens the rear to 1.3 inches.

7.0

Dell Latitude X1

The Good

Competitively priced; sleek, lightweight design; wide, 12.1-inch display; self-powered optical drive included; runs quietly; flash card reader.

The Bad

Cramped keyboard; no integrated optical drive; runs hot; single, weak speaker; no PC Card slot.

The Bottom Line

The Dell Latitude X1 squeezes everything a business user will need (except for an integrated optical drive) into a sleek, featherweight case.
Dell Latitude X1
Once chock-full of chunky, stodgy business systems, Dell's Latitude lineup now boasts one of the slimmest and sleekest notebooks around. The new Latitude X1 packs the latest components and a wide-screen display into a thin, featherweight case that's based on Samsung's breakthrough Q30 (sold only overseas). Don't let the small, stylish case fool you--the Latitude X1 serves up the features and the power that business users demand.

Designed for maximum portability, the Dell Latitude X1 exacts some sacrifice with an undersize keyboard. The 18mm keys--just barely big enough to type on--took some getting used to; you wouldn't want to write the great American novel on this laptop. The touch pad has a wonderful, textured surface that makes it easy to move the cursor accurately, though it lacks a scroll bar for scanning through documents and Web pages. While we like the magnesium case and the no-latch lid, the single speaker underneath the case is inadequate for anything but listening to system sounds; bring headphones.

Sonoma architecture brings PCI Express to the Latitude X1, though the notebook lacks an XPress card slot for future high-speed expansion; cards are not expected to show up until 2006, and we're not convinced that this is a feature you'll regret not having. Intel's 915 integrated GPU, which can borrow up to 128MB of system memory, powers the wide-screen 12.1-inch WXGA screen; we found the screen big enough to show two or three data windows at once and even adequate for DVD viewing. The rest of the components are among the smallest and the most battery friendly available: a 1.1GHz ultra-low-voltage Pentium M processor; a big 60GB hard drive running at a slow 4,200rpm; and 512MB of 400MHz DDR memory. On the downside, none of these components is easily removable, so upgrades and component swaps will be difficult, if not impossible. Our $2,002 test unit, priced toward the high end of the Latitude X1 line, also featured a self-powered external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive that connects to the laptop via a pair of USB 2.0 cords.

CNET Labs' benchmark tests showed that, despite its small size, the Latitude X1 is a heavy hitter. It scored a 167 in our MobileMark 2002 test, 25 percent faster than IBM's less expensive ThinkPad X40 and slightly ahead of both the less expensive Fujitsu LifeBook P7010 and the pricier Sony VAIO VGN-T150P/L.

After using the system for about an hour, we found that the bottom of the laptop got hot, likely due to the fact that the Latitude X1 does without a cooling fan. In addition to keeping the laptop quiet, the lack of a fan also helps conserve battery life: the Latitude X1 ran for 3 hours, 2 minutes in our drain test, enough to work during shorter flights but way short of the 5-plus hours offered by the LifeBook P7010 and the Sony VAIO VGN-T150P/L. If you're often away from a wall socket, we recommend Dell's $129 high-capacity battery pack, which will bolster battery life and add 5 ounces to the Latitude X1's travel weight (CNET did not test this battery).

The Latitude X1 comes with all of the ports a business user should need, with one exception: there's no PC Card slot. Instead, the notebook has a card reader that supports the Secure Digital, CompactFlash, and MicroDrive formats. Also onboard are four-pin, unpowered FireWire, headphone, and VGA-out ports, as well as a pair of USB 2.0 connectors, one of which is specially designed for powering the external optical drive. Communications are built-in with a Gigabit Ethernet port, a V.92 modem, Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi.

The Latitude X1 comes with Microsoft Windows XP Pro, along with a few well-chosen utilities, including Dell's QuickSet configuration software and Sonic's CD-burning software. Our test system had a hardwired Trusted Platform Module that can generate encryption keys for hiding proprietary data. However, the system has neither a fingerprint scanner nor a smart-card reader--features increasingly found on higher-end corporate notebooks.

Dell backs the Latitude X1 with a generous three-year warranty; an extra $204 gets you accidental-damage coverage, instant access to technicians, remote troubleshooting, and notification of updated software. Dell offers all customers 24/7, toll-free tech support, as well as a terrific self-service Web site that includes FAQs, downloads, troubleshooting, and excellent update bulletins.

Mobile application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life minutes  

Find out more about how we test Windows notebooks.
System configurations:
Dell Latitude X1
Windows XP Professional; 1,100MHz Intel Pentium M ULV 733; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel i915GM/GMS Express (up to 128MB); Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
Fujitsu LifeBook P7010D
Windows XP Professional; 1,100MHz Intel Pentium M ULV 713; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855GM/GME Extreme Graphics (up to 64MB); Fujitsu MHT2060AT 40GB 4,200rpm
IBM ThinkPad X40
Windows XP Professional; 1,200MHz Intel Pentium M LV; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 82852/82855GM/GME Extreme Graphics (up to 64MB); Hitachi DK13FA-40 60GB 4,200rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-T150P/L
Windows XP Professional; 1,100MHz Intel Pentium M ULV 733; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; Intel 82852/82855 GM/GME Extreme Graphics (up to 64MB); Toshiba MK4004GAH 40GB 4,200rpm